Asian Correspondent » Shaun Mooney Asian Correspondent Thu, 02 Jul 2015 08:00:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 One of a Kind Tue, 07 Jun 2011 12:46:50 +0000

Christa Brown’s is a fascinating JMU story. She came to JMU for academics — and with three majors, she certainly got plenty of academics — yet she found that JMU has a lot more to offer than just academics.


This story by Jamie Marsh tells of Brown’s amazing journey, a journey that may one day find her leading our country.

One of a kind

Triple-major Christa Brown (’12) came to JMU for academics and got a whole lot more
By Jamie Marsh

Ask Christa Brown (’12) what she wants to do after JMU and you’ll hear a 20-year plan that ends either in Congress or the Oval Office. While your eyes may be rolling, please consider that she is well on her way to attaining her goals as she will graduate with three majors that as a unit make Brown a one-of-a-kind, exceptionally well-rounded leader.

Brown’s three majors — German, political science, and theater and dance — mean most of her time is consumed with study. “I have no qualms about getting lost in my schoolwork,” she declares on her MySpace page, and indeed it’s what she hoped college would be like when she was at Prince George High School near Richmond.

She was also accepted at two other schools, but ultimately came to Madison for one reason: academics. Sure, she thought the campus was beautiful and the social activities plentiful, but she chose JMU “to get knowledge, to be mentored by the best professors and ultimately to get an awesome job,” she says.

Political Science major gives wings to aspirations

As a freshman, Brown declared political science as a major, but she quickly realized she wanted more. “I wouldn’t say I’m typical,” she says with a boisterous laugh. “It’s unusual to have three majors, but my professors offer a lot of support, I’m super organized, and I never lose sight of my main objectives. I’m mostly paying for my own education, and I think that helps me to stay focused. I’m passionate and driven to achieve the goals I’ve set for myself.” Those goals are so top-of-mind that Brown can list them in chronological order: join the U.S. Air Force, followed by law school — specializing in immigration law — a stint in Congress and then possibly serve as an ambassador to Germany. Sometimes she also tacks on the lofty goal of president.

Her political resume is already under way. After serving in student government in high school, Brown decided to major in political science with a concentration in pre-law. At JMU, she participated in “Take Your Professor to Lunch Day” and got one-on-one time with a professor who also served in the Virginia House of Delegates. “It was an amazing experience,” Brown says. “I was eating lunch with him, and I remember thinking, ‘yes, this is what I want to do.’ This is why I came to JMU.”

From then on, she joined every related program available to her including the Student Government Association and the Judicial Council — a group with authority to judge its campus peers. Brown says the Judicial Council is a particularly good fit because she is “drawn to law and order, and maintaining order.”

Those skills were then strengthened during a junior-year internship with Harrisonburg Mayor Kai Degner (’03, ’05M). The “mini-internship” was part of a class project helping Degner with his Harrisonburg Summit series, an Open Space Technology chain of meetings where participants create an agenda on the fly. Brown worked on the Intercultural/Interfaith Summit where several breakout sessions focused specifically on immigrant communities, a topic she plans to study further. “Christa illustrates a common experience at JMU,” Degner says. “Students get out of the classroom and into the real world.”

German major and Study Abroad

Now, Brown is gearing up for her next out-of-classroom experience: a Study Abroad program in Germany. Her primary goal is to build language skills through immersion, but she also hopes to absorb a good deal of culture as well: “I enjoy philosophy — Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Montesquieu — and I want to study German philosophers like Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche.” She’ll also try to see as many opera houses as possible, a nod to her third major — theater and dance.

Theater and Dance major and broadening opportunities

Though people often ask how theater and dance fits into her legal and political plans, Brown calls the JMU theater department her true home. “It’s where I am most me, where I am allowed to relax,” she says. “I’m not a party person or a socialite. Instead, I use theater to relieve my stress. It’s therapeutic.”

This philosophy was partially inspired by Scott Zane Smith, her favorite professor. “The relationships students have with JMU professors are amazing,” Brown says. “I’ve been privileged to really get to know a professor who also instructs and inspires me like no other. Professor Smith expects a lot out of his students, and I push myself to meet his expectations.”

Smith says all voice students must quickly learn to set priorities because they practice on the Honor System, logging their time spent, goals accomplished and personal evaluation. “Students either perform well because they have worked diligently or they do not know what they are doing,” he says. “The stakes are high for Christa because of all she is committed to, but she’s learned the discipline to make right choices.”

As a theater and dance major, Brown is also required to work in main stage productions. She’s surprised herself by choosing off-stage roles like stage management, ticketing and lighting. “I saw an opportunity to be introverted and take on an observational role. This is one of the reasons I’ve grown at JMU. I’m a more balanced person because of opportunities to try different things.”

One lesson she didn’t expect to learn off-stage: how to be a better leader. “I’m in the process of learning that leadership isn’t just about being the figurehead,” she says. “If you really get a grasp of the full spectrum of what’s going on in a production or an organization, you can be a better leader from the background. It’s leadership as service.” That’s a lesson she believes will take her far — maybe even to the White House.

]]> 3
JMU Students … Being the Change Thu, 07 Apr 2011 15:59:37 +0000


When it comes to changing the world, JMU students come up with some pretty amazing ideas. Here is just such a story about political science major Wes Mitchell (’10).

The power of soccer

Wes Mitchell (’10) helps fight AIDS with Grassroot Soccer
By Amelia Wood (’13)

Soccer fan and political science major Wes Mitchell (’10) is an intern in Lilongwe, Malawi, with the nonprofit organization Grassroot Soccer. 

Imagine the power of Michael Jordan if basketball was the only sport anyone watched. Soccer is an integral part of most local cultures across the world. Simply arriving at a field with a soccer ball will win you instant friendships and immediate access into a local community. What better introduction to fight one of the world’s most prevalent diseases. 

Soccer fan and political science major Wes Mitchell (’10) is an intern in Lilongwe, Malawi, with the nonprofit organization Grassroot Soccer. He is “using the transformative power of soccer in the fight against HIV and AIDS.” 

JMU “my first choice”

Mitchell’s journey to get to Malawi started during his senior year of high school while he was applying for college. “Throughout high school I researched just about every academic program at JMU because I knew that it was my first choice for college. I’ll never forget the day I got home from school to find that JMU admissions packet in my mailbox. I didn’t even visit the other schools I applied to,” he says. 

Mitchell was a member of the JMU men’s club soccer team for four years. He was in charge of fundraisers sophomore and junior year, and served as social chair his junior year. As an upperclassman, he coached varsity boys’ soccer at Spotswood High School. “I consider myself a more outgoing and personable individual as a result of the culture at JMU,” Mitchell says. “JMU prepares students for the real world after college.” 

From Africana studies to internships

Melinda Adams, political science associate professor, peaked Mitchell’s interest in a minor in Africana studies. “I enjoyed learning about her experiences and expertise in African politics,” he says. Mitchell interned at the U.S. Embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe, giving him his first real taste of Africa. “I would eventually like to get more involved with African politics and economics, but I love working for Grassroot Soccer and influencing young people in Malawi,” says Mitchell, who had a second minor communication studies. 

Mitchell accepted the internship with Grassroot Soccer right after graduation. “Knowing that I wouldn’t see my family and friends for the next year, I tried to see everyone before I left for Africa,” he says. 

Mitchell helps out with numerous aspects of the nonprofit including, planning and implementing educational programs, developing relationships with other community organizations, organizing events, monitoring programs, recruiting volunteers and helping develop business. 

Mitchell hopes to attend a graduate program to further his education in African politics and economics. “I can’t wait to get back and see all the new and exciting things going on at JMU,” he says. “I’ve really missed JMU football and Homecoming.” 

Read Mitchell’s blog at, or learn more at 

]]> 0
Just one of our amazing faculty members at JMU Wed, 02 Mar 2011 20:09:05 +0000

Let me introduce you to Shah Mahmoud Hanifi, one of our amazing faculty members here at JMU.

An author and renowned scholar, Hanifi is one of the United States’ few experts on Afghanistan. He is influencing global political discourse and bringing it directly to JMU classrooms.

Here’s an interview with Hanifi conducted by our Madison alumni magazine.

Madison: You spent a spring 2010 sabbatical working on your second book about Afghanistan. How will this experience enhance relationships with your students?

Shah Mahmoud Hanifi: I enjoyed giving some talks this year that I am organizing around my forthcoming book Knowing Afghanistan: The Epistemology of a Global Colonial Frontier. In addition to preparing a few chapters and essays to appear in edited books and journals I have contracted with Stanford University Press for a paperback print version of my first book, Connecting Histories in Afghanistan and with I. B. Tauris for an edited volume, Power Hierarchies and Hegemony in Afghanistan: State Building, Ethnic Minorities and Identity in Central Asia. Through my research and publication efforts, I’m developing new ways of thinking about subject matters, which I’m anxious to convey to students who will in turn surely help me refine my thinking and writing about the things I’m trying to learn better.

Madison: You are an assiduous researcher and scholar. You could teach anywhere. What do you like about JMU’s teaching environment and direct contact with undergrads?

Hanifi: As a historian with transnational and global orientations, the most appealing, and challenging, aspects of teaching at JMU are the geographical breadth and chronological depth I push my students and myself to explore. My duties at JMU have prompted me to creatively use and branch out from my core interests in the economic impact of British Indian colonialism on 19th-century Afghanistan to engage a variety of issues including printing, literacy and bureaucracies in the region of the world between Casablanca and Calcutta since the rise of Islam. I appreciate the institutional space for comparative and interdisciplinary teaching at JMU, and my students help me think about material that in some instances I am learning afresh right along with them.

Madison: How do you transform the innate curiosity of JMU history students into disciplined, in-sightful and analytical investigation?

Hanifi: For understanding the Middle East, South Asia and the Islamic world more broadly it is first and foremost necessary to de-exoticize and humanize the people there. The next task is to expose students to the social and cultural complexity in this part of the world. The subsequent need is to address the ongoing interaction and changing relations between the multiple communities that interact across this wide zone. The final goal is for students to situate the Middle East, South Asia and the Islamic world in relation to the rest of the world.

Madison: How do you take someone from curious student to novice researcher to practiced historian? 

Hanifi: That is the true reward of teaching. Students mature at different rates. However, one pattern that emerges among them is a moment when after exposure to considerable doses of local, regional and world history it dawns on students that knowledge is partial and full of inconsistencies and contradictions. This prompts them to realize that practical organization of information and careful interpretation of limited data are the keys to practicing history. The beauty of this maturation moment is that it renders the historian’s craft tangible and manageable for rapidly growing young minds. The period of this intellectual conjuncture can vary from a few weeks to a full semester. It entails students metaphorically “looking themselves in the mirror” and coming to terms with their own short-term limitations while also helping to frame their longer-term aspirations.

Madison: Talk about a time when you were able to engage with a student who has become an “expert” in a particular topic and feel that you have been enlightened.

Hanifi: The first student fitting this mold is John Adair Miller (’06, ’09M). John is one of the many undergraduate history majors who have returned to JMU for graduate school, in his case a master’s degree in our emerging graduate program concentration in global history. He produced a first-rate thesis on Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan that taught me a lot about a place I thought I knew well. John is now pursuing a Ph.D. in history, focusing on Afghanistan, at Ohio State University. I also want to mention Claire Metcalfe (’08), whom I first encountered on a Study Abroad program in London. She wrote an award-winning senior honors thesis about the history of cholera in British Colonial India under my direction in the anthropology department. Claire returned to Europe for graduate work and earned an M.A. with honors in bioarchaeology at the University of London. She is now considering Ph.D. programs in paleontology and paleoecology in England and Germany. I’ve learned quite a bit about the history of colonial medicine, physical anthropology and archaeology from Claire.

Madison: What first inspired you to your field? Do you see that same excitement in your students?

Hanifi: In some ways I was born into my field through an Afghan father and a Lebanese mother. However, in other ways my excitement about the history of the Middle East was triggered just as it is with my students. My commitment to history took shape over the course of a revolutionary few weeks as an undergraduate, when I started thinking critically about my particular niche as a burgeoning historian, career goals and my overall life aspirations.

Madison: By coordinating the minor in Middle Eastern communities and migrations, you get to collaborate across the university. What is attracting students to this minor?

Hanifi: I’m sure global events are attracting students to the minor, but one thing history teaches us is that times change and wars end. My long-term goal is to leave structures in place for academic knowledge to continue to flourish and remain in demand in a far less militarized context that I hope, perhaps against all odds, will develop domestically and globally sooner rather than later.

Madison: Describe the educated and enlightened citizen you see graduate from the history department.

Hanifi: One who is able to critically examine his or herself and the structures that make that thinking possible, and one who uses that critical self-awareness to more fully understand other cultures.   M

Q Learn more about Hanifi’s research at

]]> 0
Phi Beta Kappa and love of learning Thu, 10 Feb 2011 16:27:16 +0000

Here’s a story told by Allison Gould, one of our amazing students who was recently inducted in to JMU’s first class of Phi Beta Kappa, the most elite honor society in the American college system.

Phi Beta Kappa and love of learning

Joining JMU’s inaugural Phi Beta Kappa class was a capstone to my Madison Experience

 By Allison Gould (’10)

I cannot count how many late nights I’ve spent in the library during the last four years or how many times I have asked professors to talk about my projects and papers. When I received my invitation to become an inaugural member of JMU’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa I was surprised, overjoyed that hard work pays off and also a little bit proud.

It was like seeing a semester of hard work pay off, but on a much grander scale. I was recognized with 134 of my peers for our dedication to excellence. Our induction into JMU’s inaugural Phi Beta Kappa class is not just about recognizing academic achievements, but it’s also about our commitment to preparing for the future.

My Madison Experience has helped me prepare for a successful, enlightened and open-minded lifetime of learning. In the coming years, many more students will make the pledge and commitment to uphold the principles of Phi Beta Kappa. When the national Phi Beta Kappa Society announced its decision to invite JMU to charter its own chapter in October 2009, JMU Provost Douglas Brown said, “If you look at landmark events in the university’s history, this is one of them.” Only about 10 percent of American institutions are invited to join the elite company of Phi Beta Kappa societies, so I am extremely proud to be part of this legacy.

During my four years at JMU, I valued every opportunity to expand my horizons and soak up knowledge. My commitment to embracing learning and keeping an open mind has definitely shaped my Madison Experience. I came in freshman year as a media arts and design major, and then decided to add a Spanish major and a minor in political communications. When people ask me how I have managed a double major and minor, I just smile and say, “I love to learn.” That’s one of the reasons that I did an Alternative Spring Break to help build a children’s camp in Redwoods National Park. We did everything from clearing new hiking trails with machetes to building bridges and planting ferns. The trip was definitely geared toward environmental preservation, but it was rewarding to know my hard work would be enjoyed by summer campers. I learned how incredible nature is and the importance of appreciating our forests. Service, lifetime learning, trying new things — they are all part of the Madison Experience.

When my classmates and I were inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, the JMU chapter president Charles Blake, a political science professor, noted one of Phi Beta Kappa’s principles, “Love of learning is the guide of life.” He continued, “JMU’s mission aligns closely with Phi Beta Kappa’s goals. Reasoned inquiry and heartfelt exploration are central to JMU’s efforts to help students become educated and enlightened citizens who lead productive and meaningful lives.”

More than 40 JMU professors are Phi Beta Kappa members. It was an honor to join them in JMU’s chapter. For the past four years I have considered myself a student who is always eagerly seeking more knowledge, and I know that my education will continue for the rest of my life.

As I walked up on stage to sign my name on the first pages of the Phi Beta Kappa membership book, I caught a glimpse of my parents in the audience. Their continued confidence and faith in my abilities have instilled in me a strong sense of dedication and responsibility. Thank you Mom and Dad for giving me the encouragement I needed to succeed. I graduated from JMU in May, not only with a bachelor’s degree, but also with a filled sense of accomplishment and the desire to embrace every new experience.

]]> 0
Chinese-American fusion on a college campus Sun, 06 Feb 2011 21:09:17 +0000
Here’s a story about Christopher Davis, a James Madison University student who is doing some great work at sharing his Chinese background within his university community in the United States.

Christopher Davis decided he wanted to meet a new group of friends and learn more about the different aspects of his Chinese background as soon as he began his first semester at James Madison University. After joining the Chinese Student Association, Davis not only established a new family away from home, he made it a top priority to share his appreciation of the Chinese culture with the rest of the JMU community.

On the surface, the goal of CSA (Chinese Student Association) is to promote Chinese culture and traditions. However, the members of CSA work together to accomplish an even bigger goal of bridging the American and Chinese cultures, and remain dedicated to helping the JMU community understand the differences between the two.

“We want to break any barriers and disprove any stereotypes people have about the average Chinese-American student,” said Davis. “CSA works hard to blend in seamlessly with other organizations on campus, and we hope students recognize that.”

CSA members themselves come from diverse backgrounds including American-born Chinese, international students from China, students who speak Chinese and those who do not. Through the association members are given the opportunity to learn more about their heritage in greater detail.

“As an organization, CSA hopes to tap into the campus climate and help make the university a more culturally diverse place,” said CSA member Amy Wu. “People are so supportive when they come out to events and performances, and a key goal is to help advocate for a more inclusive campus.”

Cultural Values Spread Via Entertainment Each spring, CSA hosts its annual culture show, which features various performances that educate the audience about Chinese culture, tradition and history. The event showcases dance and music compilations, such as modern and hip-hop fusions, an enchanting Thousand Hand Buddha dance and a mysterious Sichuan Mask Change. The culture show, however, would not be complete without its star player: the lion. The highly anticipated Lion Dance, a fairly new addition to CSA’s repertoire, was brought to JMU by former CSA President Michael Wu.

“A lot of people who have seen lion dancing enjoy it very much and always look forward to it. The Lion Dance effortlessly became a new tradition at JMU, and it is good to know that people on campus are starting to know what the dance is about – driving away evil spirits and bringing good luck,” said Michael Wu.

CSA’s culture show is scheduled to take place April 9 at 7 p.m. in Wilson Hall Auditorium on campus. Proceeds from the culture show and CSA fundraising efforts throughout the year have successfully raised thousands of dollars for the Half the Sky Foundation, Sichuan Earthquake Relief and Wolong Panda Reserve. This year, CSA hopes to raise $1,000 for “A Child’s Right,” a nonprofit relief organization that provides clean drinking water for children in China.  “We seek to educate the children not only about culture, but also about integrity and morality,” said Michael Wu.  For more information on the Chinese Student Association or James Madison University visit

]]> 0
Undergraduate research opportunities in the United States Thu, 03 Feb 2011 19:29:44 +0000

We have some amazing students at James Madison University. Here’s a profile of Christian Schwantes that appeared in the fall 2010 edition of Madison, our alumni magazine.

Christian Schwantes (’10)

Changing the chemical world

Christian Schwantes (’10) of Falls Church, Va., once wanted a Nobel Prize, but now the double major in chemistry and math has a higher goal. “Science is becoming more interdisciplinary,” he says. “Labs now hire biologists, chemists and physicists to work on the same problem.”

And each uses a different language. “In chemistry we decant solutions instead of pouring. In medicine, we perform phlebotomies instead of testing blood. The language drives the gap between scientists and everyone else. We need to communicate.”

Schwantes wants to do this in a classroom, as a research Ph.D. “Chemistry is becoming more and more mainstream, but it’s still an esoteric subject. Chemical imbalances in the brain are being linked to disorders like Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s and to personality issues, like being more prone to violence or addictions. I’d like to see chemistry be in everyone’s mind when going on with their lives, but a huge obstacle is the esoteric language that we scientists love to use. The language is just driving the gap between scientists and everyone else further and further apart. We need to bridge that gap and the first and easiest way to do that is to communicate. We need to be able to communicate our research with people who have not studied it for years.”

He’s already making inroads: From the summer after his freshman year through his senior year, he worked with JMU chemistry professor Kevin Minbiole investigating the role of chemistry in a symbiotic relationship between bacteria and amphibians where the bacteria were able to protect amphibians from a fungal pathogen by secreting antifungal metabolites. “I had heard of the disease before and always considered myself to be an environmentalist,” says Schwantes. “Working with Dr. Minbiole was a perfect fit.”

Schwantes has co-authored papers with Minbiole and published them in the Journal of Chemical Ecology and International Society for Microbial Ecology. Schwantes has also presented at the International Society for Chemical Ecology conference in Switzerland and the American Chemical Society conference. “At more well-known research schools, I would only be a graduate researcher’s assistant. At JMU, I’ve led the research team. JMU changed me.”

After graduating in May as the top JMU student in chemistry and mathematics, and the top senior in biochemistry, Schwantes will begin Stanford University’s Ph.D. program in computational chemistry this fall.

He wants to change the world of chemistry. “I hope that in moving on to become a professor in a field — whose mention generally brings scowls from the audience — I can change how people regard chemistry,” he explains. “I love everything about chemistry, and I want to share that with the world. I think JMU’s Be the Change motto uses ‘the world’ in a looser sense. I always had the drive to change the world, but I always thought that meant I had to change the entire world. JMU grads leave with the ability to be world changers — even if their world is a kindergarten class in Kansas. JMU has helped me realize that change, however small, is important.”

]]> 0
Choose your Madison experience Fri, 21 Jan 2011 20:20:40 +0000

Ever wonder what a typical day is like in the life of a JMU student? Guess what? There is no one answer. There are millions of possibilities.

At JMU, you choose your Madison Experience.

At JMU, you will learn to think critically, to lead a productive and meaningful life, to become a positive risk-taker, to work on your strengths and your weaknesses, and to accept your individuality.

Check out the student profile below.  The Madison Experiences include one-on-one relationships with top professors; majors, minors and concentrations that cross disciplines and academic interests; community service that enhances their academic knowledge; and an interesting mix of intramural and social student activities and organizations. Through a one-of-a-kind student success program, the Madison Experience helps JMU students find their way to Be the Change.

Amanda Kuhnley (’11)

Amanda Kuhnley (’11) likes a good challenge — or four. This honors student and Dingledine Scholarship recipient has two majors — integrated science and technology, and art history — as well as two minors — studio art and classical studies — and a monster senior thesis that will meld all of these interests into one incredible project.

“This is why I chose JMU,” she says, “because I wanted a challenge.” Yet JMU was the furthest thing from her mind as a high-school senior. Kuhnley had been accepted at an older elite college, but her theater director at Bishop Sullivan Catholic High in Virginia Beach kept raving about JMU, his alma mater. “He completely transformed my outlook,” Kuhnley says.

It was during her campus visit that she fell in love with the people she met and realized she would “never be a number” at JMU. “My choice was to go to [another school], where I would fall into their tradition with the pressure of hundreds of years of scholars bearing down upon my shoulders, or go to JMU where I could be part of an innovative and inspiring family and make my own challenges.”

Before arriving as a freshman, she declared both art history and integrated science and technology as majors, even though she considered science her worst subject. She was attracted to JMU’s “different approach” to science — a broader, more collaborative environment with lots of teamwork and hands-on learning. “The professors in the College of Integrated Science and Technology promised a chance to participate in undergraduate research. That was vital in my choice,” she says. “At JMU, it’s not totally about the grade; the ability to think critically and to show compassion to others is a large measure of success.”

At first, because art and science didn’t seem terribly related, she got “some push-back” from academic advisers. Now four years later, she is merging these fields not only to help her JMU professors but also to help future students. Each Friday, she interns in the Madison Art Collection identifying potentially fake items. If Kathryn Stevens, director of the Madison Art Collection, questions a piece, she has Kuhnley’s unique expertise in materials analysis. Last semester when Stevens doubted a Babylonian cylinder seal in the collection, Kuhnley quickly verified it was not Babylonian at all after using a giant scanning electron microscope in ISAT to search for traces of lapis lazuli rock.

Kuhnley believes this crossing of traditional boundaries makes her an “anti-specialist.” “I want to be the person in the middle who can communicate with the scientists and the artists and the historians,” she explains. This summer, she did just that while spending a month in Malta as part of an ISAT Study Abroad program. Trip adviser Paul Goodall says all 29 students on the trip completed an independent project specially designed for them. “With Amanda, we set up something where she could merge her ISAT and art history majors. The island of Malta is in the middle of the Mediterranean, and it’s been a hub for trade and pirate activity for centuries. It has lots of artifacts and art that can be analyzed and evaluated to determine their age and the identity of the culture involved in creating them. This is the kind of work Amanda hopes to pursue after graduation.”

As soon as she returned this summer, Kuhnley embarked on her ultimate test — a senior thesis project that involved collaborating with German colleagues, building all of the lab experiments for ISAT’s new engineering course and teaching the labs to other JMU students.

“Amanda is a perfect example of a student carving out exactly what she needs from JMU to pursue a very specific interdisciplinary career path,” explains her thesis adviser ISAT professor Ron Kander. Kuhnley acknowledges the project will be intense in part because she’ll be graded both on the written part and her teaching abilities.

It is extremely rare for undergraduate students to co-teach courses or serve as teaching assistants at JMU, but Kuhnley has had practice thanks to Calculus professor Paul Goodall. “I stood in front of my peers and answered questions at the chalkboard,” Kuhnley says. “My leadership skills and confidence grew tremendously, and I think I was able to really help several people.” Goodall concurs and adds that, “Amanda is almost too good to be true. She runs extra help sessions each Friday afternoon and she looks for every opportunity to give back. For example, normally we check over the entire homework assignment for answers and then maybe give detailed feedback on three or four problems. Amanda tries to grade every problem to help students learn more.” And her extra effort paid off. When students were asked to evaluate their experience in freshman calculus, Kuhnley got the highest score. Goodall says with a chuckle: “She even scored higher than me, the professor!”

In addition to questions about calculus, her peers sometimes ask Kuhnley how she gets it all done. “I have really good time management skills and a lot of drive and ambition. Last semester, I had classes from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. but they were all completely different, so I stayed interested. I live on campus to be close to professors and other students, and I try to never turn down an opportunity.”

Her life outside of academia includes intramural softball, dance classes at the University Recreation Center, a private reading club led by her freshman English professor and attending JMU Theater II performances. She also volunteers for Make Your Mark on Madison — a student leadership program that pairs freshmen with junior and senior mentors. In the JMU Honors Program, Kuhnley is helping create another mentoring program that will begin in 2011.

Kuhnley is grateful to professors like Kander and Goodall because “they’ve experienced life and now they want to teach me about it.” Her advice to new JMU students: “Take advantage of the small-school feel. Form relationships with your professors and then work hard to match their efforts. … I want my professors to know that because of them, I love JMU.”

]]> 0
There’s more to college than facts and figures Wed, 12 Jan 2011 19:17:18 +0000

As I travel around and meet with prospective students and their families in search of the perfect school, I find that many often ask the straight forward questions at first, as a warm-up.  While these “fact & figure questions” can and do play an important role in identifying the right school for a student; the answers are easily found among the statistics and rankings found on the school’s website and in the latest issues of national magazines dedicated to listing “The BEST” in colleges and universities in the U.S.A.

The more I travel, the more it becomes apparent that today’s students are bringing a sophisticated approach to their college searches.  Students want more than just the percentages and rankings; they are interested in knowing why a university stands apart from the other colleges and university they could choose from.  With greater frequency, student inquiries are moving towards these open-ended questions.  What once was a two-hour college fair with repetitive answers to the same five questions is transitioning to a conversation that allows schools an opportunity to engage with students providing in depth knowledge about the student experience and academic opportunities available.  The right question, asked by a prospective student, gives college representatives an opportunity to talk about the aspects of life on a college campus that are not covered in the brochure, basic questions, or the posted percentages and rankings.

Beyond the answers to the obvious questions, there is valuable information that enables prospective students to make the best decisions about the university environment that will provide the best value for their educational dollar.  This can include anything from academic offerings, distinctive features on a campus, extracurricular activities and initiatives for the future.  All of these add to, and enhance the experience for students on a campus and help a prospective student to know what makes your school an outstanding value.

The answer to what lies beyond the numbers for prospective students at James Madison University is quite unique indeed, it is the essence of what we call the “Madison Experience”.  Here are just a few ways students at JMU have the opportunity to experience the spaces between the obvious questions.

Big-school opportunities, small-school feel: At James Madison University you will find superior academics, unparalleled student life, and a campus and faculty committed to preparing you to lead a productive and meaningful life.  At Madison, you’ll have terminal-degree faculty in your classroom from day one, dedicated to helping you find your way, and a one-of-a-kind student success program

A world of opportunity opens up when you embark on the “Madison Experience”.  At JMU, diversity equals endless possibilities.  It means you are accepted for who you are and for your unique talents.  It says that your individuality makes this university a richer place.  From spending a semester overseas in our popular study-abroad programs to becoming a leader in one of our more than 400 clubs and organizations, immersion in the world of JMU means opportunity.

Tradition: For a century, JMU has led the way in training teachers who have gone on to work their unending magic in classrooms across the country and the world.  It just makes sense that a dedication to teaching is shared throughout JMU’s faculty and benefits students in all our majors.

Innovation: From our cross-disciplinary engineering degree, one of our most recent gems that concentrates on sustainable systems design and analysis, to quantitative finance and from integrated science and technology to our unique General Education curriculum, academic innovation has long been the way at JMU.

Social conscience: JMU graduates are known as positive risk-takers who embrace the idea that the world can be a better place when caring people listen, think and act.

A place for you to grow: We work on your weaknesses and your strengths.  Mixing in your imagination and curiosity and adding our insight and support guarantees that your Madison Experience will be special.

All this happens over and over because at JMU we work hard to keep the focus on you and preparing you to lead a productive and meaningful life.

]]> 0
Enroll at James Madison and “BE THE CHANGE” Tue, 04 Jan 2011 22:11:30 +0000

This is the first installment in a series of articles highlighting James Madison University, one of the top, public, four year institutions in the Southeast region of the United States.

James Madison University [JMU] was established in 1908 and is located in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  JMU is a public, comprehensive university located within a 2 hour drive from Washington, D.C.,   accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and is divided into six colleges with 67 undergraduate majors and 45 graduate programs.  The total student enrollment of about 18,500 students makes the university a mid-sized school.

Several national publications have consistently ranked James Madison University among the best undergraduate, public universities in the U.S.A.  For the 17th consecutive year James Madison University ranked as the top, public, master’s level university in the South in the annual poll on academic quality conducted by U.S. News & World Report.

The university’s campus, one of the most beautiful in the country, offers a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Allegheny Mountains to the west. In this western region of the state of Virginia, there are four distinct seasons with average temperatures ranging from 33F (0 C) in January to 82F (27 C) in July.

You will find that all of campus echoes the same consistent theme expressed through our Mission Statement “We are a community committed to preparing students to be educated and enlightened citizens who lead productive and meaningful lives.”

From the JMU Board of Visitors, to the president’s office, to each department and office on campus, there is an enduring commitment to put students first; to prepare students to become the leaders of the future and to inspire students to be the change.

If you come to James Madison University, you will help find answers to the most important problems facing our world. The result of your quest will be one amazing future.

]]> 0